“Their beards are the ultimate logo”
In the surfing world, no beards are more famous than those of the Malloy Brothers. But who are these be-haired siblings who command the respect of the entire wave-riding fraternity? Chris Moran investigates…
Like the silhouette shot of the Beatles, the Malloy brothers’ beards are the ultimate logo. Fittingly, for a family that prides itself on living off-grid and promoting a low-impact lifestyle, it’s an eco-friendly logo. Plus it’s free. And naturally, behind the bristles lies some serious talent.
Older brother Chris is a big wave hellman - as it's known in the business - with a recent invite to the legendary Eddie Aikau big wave contest in Hawaii to prove as much.
And how does one achieve such an accolade? Chris was the first person to surf dangerous waves in locations as diverse as Ireland, Polynesia and Indonesia. As adept behind the camera as he is in front of it, Chris also founded the surf-production company Woodshed films with cousin Emmett Malloy, the singer Jack Johnson and his two younger brothers.
He is also responsible for producing the iconic surf films Thicker Than Water and the recent 180-Degrees-South, which re-created a Pacific sailing and climbing adventure down to Patagonia first undertaken by Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins back in 1968. And yes, for keener readers, that was the trip which inspired Yvon to start a clothing brand of the same name. Tompkins went on to start the clothing brand North Face.
Middle brother Keith was the most successful competitive surfer of the three, breaking into the top forty-four world surfing rankings which got him onto the world surfing tour, before realising that his priorities lay elsewhere. "Competition changes your surfing and consumes your life," said Keith in a recent interview, "and I wanted to look for new surf destinations and absorb the cultures in the places I was travelling."
And after starring in - and co-producing some of brother Chris's films - Keith made his own bodysurfing film called Come Hell or High Water. Is it any good? It won best film at the recent London Surf Film Festival on its premier.
Youngest brother Dan is the most difficult to pin down, figuratively and literally.
“I threw out my cell phone a few years ago,” he said recently. “Enough was enough.”
Luckily, there are plenty of people who’ll tell you what he’s like. Brother Chris reckons that Dan is "always the best guy,” in the water, insisting that “he carries some of the biggest waves, but in his head he’s always still the youngest brother."
At 6-foot tall, the good looking, athletic Californian has modeled for Ralph Lauren, has appeared in Vogue Magazine, and is a fawned upon by beach babes the world over. Not that he dresses to impress.
"I just wake up and walk to town to get breckie," he told a Stab Surf Magazine recently. In turn, the magazine reckoned it was this hippie hero attitude that made him - and his brothers - so damned interesting in the first place.
"They just wash ‘n’ go," it explained, before adding that Dan might not actually do the washing part either. "The smell of earth,” reasoned the magazine, “is his cologne."
This back-to-basics approach has done them well. The trio grew up on a 15,000-acre ranch on the Californian coast.
“Our grandfather rode waves and our father built boards and rode waves. We were surfing by five years old. The idea of "becoming a surfer" in this family never occurred to us,” said Chris recently.
They moved to Hawaii after high school, then spent years exploring the Irish coast (their ancestral home) before finally signing up to work with the eco-brand Patagonia, and now spend their days creating interesting projects, and promoting the idea of living life off the grid. And of course, surfing as much as possible, though with less sibling rivalry than in previous years.
“We did compete against each other,” said Keith in a recent interview, “but it wasn’t a big deal. I think there are other sets of brothers in the surf world who are way more competitive then we are.”
Not it seems, when that competition involves growing the family’s longest beard. Current scores: Chris is winning by a whisker. Ahem.